A 10-year-old girl has died from complications that arose after undergoing female genital mutilation in Sierra Leone, authorities said.
Marie Kamara, a primary school student in Matetie village, died during an initiation into a secret women's society that involves the practice of female genital mutilation, also known as FGM, police said.
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One of the initiators, Ya Naro Kargbo, has been arrested and is helping with the investigation, said Sgt. Abdulrahman Sankoh, the regional media officer. Kargbo is in custody and could not be reached for comment.
Police said they are searching for other initiators and the girl's mother.
Seven other children who survived initiation were handed over to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs, police said.
Sankoh said parents bring their children to undergo the procedure.
In Sierra Leone, 90% of women ages 15 to 49 have undergone female genital mutilation, according to UNICEF.
Female genital mutilation involves the altering or removing of the female genitals, such as the clitoris or labia. The procedure can cause severe bleeding and health issues including infections and infertility, as well as complications in childbirth.
The practice is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women but remains widespread in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone's first lady, Fatima Bio, recently launched the campaign "Hands Off Our Girls," focusing on early marriage and rape. Activists want it to include a ban on female genital mutilation practices in the country.
"FGM is killing our women and girls. We need to get enough publicity on this incident to draw the attention of government," says Rugiatu Turay, founder of Amazonian Initiative Movement, a grassroots organization working to end female genital mutilation in Sierra Leone.